GOLDSTEIN: PM’s single-use plastic ban is double trouble for taxpayers

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While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forges ahead with his plan to eliminate single-use plastics from the environment, his own government says the policy will double the waste it creates and double the cost to taxpayers to dispose of it.

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Meanwhile, its contribution to eliminating plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers, which is the ostensible purpose of the policy, will be virtually undetectable.

It will amount to a reduction of three-thousandths of 1% of the global total of plastic waste, according to a new report by the Fraser Institute, “Canada’s Wasteful Plan to Regulate Plastic Waste.”

Author Kenneth Green points to the Trudeau government’s own regulatory impact analysis of its policy to ban single-use plastics that was released on Christmas Day last year.

The government’s own analysis of its zero plastics policy states: “The proposed Regulations would prevent approximately 1.6 million tonnes of plastics from entering the waste system over the analytical period (2023 to 2032), but would also add about 3.2 million tonnes of other materials to the waste stream from the use of substitutes, due to their increased unit weights relative to SUPS (single-use plastics).”

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The materials that will be used to replace single-use plastics — defined as grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, cutlery, take-out containers and six-pack rings — will include paper, wood, molded fiber, aluminum and even other plastics.

They will have to be disposed of as well and the Trudeau government’s report says this “increase in tonnage of waste (will) represent additional costs to municipalities and provincial authorities, as they are usually responsible for managing collection, transportation and landfilling of plastic waste, and would assume most of the associated costs, which would ultimately be passed on to taxpayers.”

The Trudeau government’s analysis concludes the net cost to Canadians of its regulations banning single-use plastics will be $1.3 billion from 2023 to 2032 — double the net savings of $619 million.

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Green noted that when the Trudeau government fully implements its zero plastics strategy — which goes well beyond the six items cited in the government’s analysis — the annual costs by 2030 will exceed the benefits by $300 million.

“Imposing costs on Canadian society exceeding benefits… fails the first and arguably most important test of sound public policy,” Green wrote.

He said the Trudeau government’s Zero Plastic Waste 2030 plan — ZPW2030 for short — “will produce little or no environmental benefit because Canada’s plastics economy poses a very small environmental risk either locally or globally.

“Only 1% of Canada’s plastic wastes are ever released into the environment. The other 99% is disposed of safely from an environmental perspective — some incinerated, some recycled, but most discarded in landfills, an environmentally benign endpoint.”

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All of which raises the question of why the prime minister is again imposing new costs on Canadians in a time of record inflation for what amounts to nothing more than a symbolic versus an actual benefit to the environment — much like his policy on climate change.

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As an alternative, Green said, the Trudeau government “should consider dropping the plan to regulate plastic wastes — a near-trivial environmental problem in Canada and as a share of our global contribution to the plastic-waste problem.

“Instead, policy makers could examine ways to crack down on end-point improper disposal of plastic wastes (littering in general); and to improve street cleaning and municipal management and handling of waste to prevent littered plastics from lingering in the environment.”

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